Apart from the annual convention in Hawaii, and events in Egypt (the home of Raqs Sharqi), one of my favourite places to meet up with everyone from the belly dance community is Las Vegas. The annual Intensive Festival, which these days is normally held in the Flamingo Hotel on Las Vegas Boulevard, is a 4 day get together which involves a number of classes, shows, a cocktail party and a hafla. Being in Vegas and being able to choose what workshops and events from the ‘Intensive Festival’ to do (i.e. you can make your own bespoke schedule according to which parts of the festival you wish to attend) and combining it with time staying in a nice hotel, some shopping (Vegas is great for shopping and has several great malls including ‘The Forum‘ which connects to Caesars Palace) and a local tour such as to the Grand Canyon, can make for a fantastic belly dance holiday.
Many festivals of this type promote the idea that the workshops will sell out so you should book early. In this case, it is actually true because two workshops I wanted to do were sold out and I had to choose alternatives. I met many faces from the belly dance world that I already know from different countries i.e. some students and teachers who attend other events that I have been to in Egypt, Holland, Italy and Morocco, but I also met many new people. What you will tend to find in these festivals and also with other dance festivals, is that there is always a real sense of community and people are usually very friendly and open. This was certainly the case in Vegas also and even though i travelled to the festival alone, I soon got to know people and had a fantastic time.
The Las Vegas Bellydance Intensive Festival, really is intensive, with over 80 hours of teaching lasting four days and about 30 teachers! There is something for everyone in terms of dance styles and teachers are very experienced and established in the belly dance community. For example, one of the teachers is Helena Vlahos, a famous Greek-American dancer, who is one of the icons of American cabaret belly dance style. One of Helena’s signature moves is the famous trick of rolling coins across her belly, using only the power of her abdominals. Styles include American tribal, Egyptian, American cabaret and also some Bollywood fusion. Workshops also include lessons on props such as sagat, veil, Isis wings and more. So, whatever style or prop you like, you will enjoy and you may end up trying something different too, that you had never tried before. This happens to me when I attend festivals, I like to try as many new things as possible (even though I then tend to gravitate towards my usual favourite, which is Egyptian) and the festival in Las vegas was a treat in this respect.
Accommodation is not sold as part of the festival, so the best options in my view and worth checking are:
(3555 Las Vegas Boulevard)
Given that the festival takes place in the Flamingo Hotel and with this hotel in an excellent location, a lovely place in which to stay and similarly priced to other 3 star hotels on the boulevard, this is my first recommendation. The casino hotel also has a very nice area on the outside with pool area and also a 156 acre zoo style habitat wildlife area in the grounds of the hotel. See living pink flamingo’s!
Trump International Hotel
(2000 Fashion Show Drive)
For a 5 star hotel for added luxury and still for a very decent price, Trump International Vegas is a wonderful hotel and which I have stayed in twice before. Every room has a spa bath and after a doing two three hour dance workshops, the spa bath can be a wonderful way to relax the body afterwards. Although a short taxi ride from the festival in the Flamingo, if you want more luxury, it is a great choice.
(3570 Las Vegas Boulevard South)
Located directly opposite the Flamingo Hotel, you only have to walk across the road for the Bellydance Intensive event, and you can enjoy this stunning hotel. Just like most hotels in Vegas, they make their main income from the gaming hence the cost of accommodation is very cheap for what you get. Despite being a 4 star and world famous hotel, rooms are quite affordable.
Some of the dancers who have performed in the past at this show (and many who attend each year) include the likes of:
The standard of teaching is good and there tends to be something available for all levels and comes with a competition for the more advanced dancers to enter, if they wish.
To give you a taster of previous instances of this show, video highlights from last year’s show below.
It depends of course where you are flying in from, as to what the best option is for getting to Vegas. To give some general ideas and advice though: